Millions of patients in the US (or 1 in 10 Americans according to CDC data) struggle to pay for their medications, especially those having chronic health conditions that require multiple prescriptions. No wonder, knowing that prescription drug costs have risen by 10% in the last 12 months. It's estimated that nearly 17% of total US healthcare costs are spent on prescription medications.
Another problem is that prices for prescription medications in the US are neither fixed nor regulated and can vary widely (often by more than $100 for same prescription) between pharmacies, even if they stand across the street from each other.
Few years ago, Santa Monica-based GoodRx launched its drug price comparison iPhone app, along with the website. The goal of the GoodRx app was to help patients compare drug prices at competing pharmacies and also to offer discounts, coupons and others saving tips.
The app allows users to enter in the name of the prescription, along with their zip code or state. The app then displayed a list of prices for the brand name and generic versions of the drug, along with address of the pharmacy. According to GoodRx, they provide more than 1 million prices for more than 6,000 brand name and generic drugs.
But, the drug prices may affect physicians too. Sometimes patients may express concern about how much they are paying for their meds and may ask their medical providers to suggest lower prices or low-cost alternatives. This puts physicians in tough position, because it's impossible to know cost of every drug, or location of every pharmacy that offers discounts or lower prices.
Fortunately, GoodRx recently made the version of their app available for providers too. GoodRx for Doctors is a free app, available for both iOS and Android devices, that compares various local retail pharmacies' prices for the most frequently prescribed drugs.
This new version of GoodRx medical app uses the same information on drug prices and discounts, which is available in the patient app. The difference is fully functional drug guide, similar to those of Epocrates, MicroMedex or Lexi-comp, that allows providers to quickly email or text their patients about the best prices on particular drugs. Providers can also use this guide at the point of care. However, the primary goal of this app is finding the lowest prescription medication prices in their geographic area, and providing patients with the information.
GoodRx for Doctors app's user interface is simple and straightforward. Upon starting the app, you'll be prompted to choose a specialty. If you select one, only those medications that are typically prescribed within that specialty will be displayed. Providers can omit this part with selecting a specialty and choose to browse commonly used medications performing a custom search. For this review, we did a custom search for atorvastatin, without selecting our specialty. You may wonder why we did this, because it would be easier to find certain drug if you provide your specialty. That's true, but there is no easy way for switching to a different specialty, once you've chosen your primary specialty. This is a minor drawback we found, but many app users probably won't find it annoying. Especially because the app's search function works really well, making possible to find any drug quickly, regardless of your specialty.
With specialty or not, either way you choose, you'll get lists what local retailers (both physical and online stores) are charging for a given medication (atorvastatin in our case), with their location, based on the ZIP code you've provided. Some of the retailers will also offer savings coupons where available.
Taping on provider will open a screen with all provider's location listed, with pharmacy cash price and price with GoodRx coupon (if available). There's also Send to Patient button, which allows you to send text or email to your patients with the information about the particular retailer and its price.
Below the list of retailers, there are couple more useful options, including Savings, Info, Images and Latest News.
Savings allows you to check cost of 90-day supplies, to split a higher dosage pill to save up to 50% each month, and to find a cheaper alternative (in this case, cheaper statins).
Info option offers a lot of useful info along with reference links about the prescription medication you've chosen, thanks to the fully functional drug guide. You can read more about the drug, commonly used brand names, proper use and dosing, interactions with other drugs or medical conditions, etc.
You can also check visually how your medication looks like. Images option allows you to see color, size and shape of the medication, depending on various manufacturers.
Finally, you can check latest news for both medication and conditions they’re used for. In this case we got news on statins, cholesterol, as well as general drug news.
Overall, GoodRx of Doctors app is a very useful comparison and suggestion tool, working as advertised and providing modest discounts even on generic medications.
Benefit: Most benefit of this app would have all physicians of any specialty who are caring for patients either without insurance or who have high-copays, who want to find and compare the best drug prices.